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The Last Lecture

This man lives rent free in my head. It all started when I caught an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show entitled “Life Lessons with Randy Pausch” in the year 2007. It is a little less than 5 years today but it has been the most inspiring and motivating afternoon of my life till date. And I am sure it has been the same for many other fellow citizens.

Please watch the short video below to have an idea about what I am talking about.

Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at the Carnegie Mellon University, a loving father of three little kids, a doting husband and a pancreatic cancer patient took a gracious bow out of life in July, 2008. But his physical death is insignificant in the sense that he took over the hearts and minds of millions like me. And continues to be alive even today. He taught some lesser mortals like me some of the most precious life lessons. He left behind an unforgettable legacy of a life well spent no matter how short it was. His true legacy is the emblematic last lecture or “The Last Lecture”, he drafted and delivered at the Carnegie Mellon University.

Randy Pausch was diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer of the pancreas in September, 2006. After several unsuccessful attempts to halt his cancer including the whipple procedure, he was told in August, 2007 to expect around three to six months of good heath left.

Pausch delivered “The Last Lecture” at the Carnegie Mellon University on September 18, 2007. He presented an abridged version of the talk later on Oprah’s show. This kind of a final talk is customary among the professors at the Carnegie Mellon to look back and impart useful insights from their life as if it was their last chance. Sadly, for Randy it was indeed the last one.

“The Last Lecture” – Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

Life Lesson 1: Experiences are what you get when you don’t get what you want.

The talk was not so much about death as it was about life. Confronting a terminal medical prognosis, this man talks about childhood dreams. He says anything is possible if you believe in it. You should never give up your dreams. Randy had a dream of making it to the NFL or the National FootBall League. He says he could not achieve this particular dream of his, but he says that there is a lot he got just by trying and when he stands back and sums it all, he can be only grateful that he tried. So trying is extremely important.

Life Lesson 2: The Brick Walls that are in our way are there for a reason. They are not there to keep us out, they are there to show us how much we want it.

Randy had visited the Disney Land theme parks at the age of 8 and started nurturing the dream of being an “imagineer” oneday. The imagineers are some of the words best engineering brains who are behind the Disney magic. However, all his attempts to secure a position in the Imagineering team met with rejection. He kept his rejection letters and continued to be inspired from them. He kept on working hard and eventually got involved in some virtual reality technology oriented research which secured him a position in an Imagineering team at the Walt Disney Corporation. However, it took him a good 15 years of time to do so and lots of trials and failures in the way. But the most important thing is that he did not stop trying.

Life Lesson 3: Never underestimate the importance of having fun. Are you a Tigger or an Eeyore?
He drew analogy from the character of Tigger. He said that Tigger stood for enthusiasm, positive energy and everything fun. It is extremely important to have fun in whatever you do. You need to be a “Tigger” in whatever you choose to do. He said he would choose to have fun in every single day he had left of him and sure he did.

Life Lesson 4: Work and Play well with others
He reiterated that how important it is to enable and respect others when you in a journey to fulfill your own dreams. He laid down three easy ways of doing that.

The first would be to tell the truth. Never compromise with your integrity.

The second would be to apologize when one is due. And a good apology according to him consists of three parts. The first would be telling how sorry you are. The second would be to admit your fault. The third and the most important would be to offer to do good the damages with a true intent.

The third most important thing to remember while working with others would be to understand and appreciate the fact that no one is pure evil. It only takes patience and time on your part and the good in one shall be there for you to see.

Life Lesson 5: Never forget to show gratitude

He drew forth the example of how he had taken 15 of his young students working with him in his research project to Disneyland for a week and paid for it from his own pocket when he got his tenure renewed as a faculty member. When someone questioned him the necessity of the gesture he said that this was the least he could have done for his hardworking students who got him such a prized job. The importance of expressing and showing gratitude cannot be underestimated. Being thankful for what you receive makes you the person you are.

He wraps up the speech saying that it is extremely important to live ones life righteously. Be true to your karma and your dreams shall come to you. Listen to your conscience and live by it.

“The Last Lecture” was published as a book by the publisher Hyperion, which is owned by Disney. This book by Dr.Randy Pausch along with co author Wall Street Journal Reporter Jeffrey Zaslow went on to become a New York Times Best Seller in April, 2008.

If you can spare around 76 minutes of your precious time, watch the video below for the full version of “The Last Lecture”. I can assure you it will be a very well spent 76 minutes of your life unless you have already watched it.

The Walt Disney Company dedicated a plaque at Disney Land near the “Mad Tea Party” attraction to Dr. Randy Pausch with one of his yet another life lesson, “Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcome”.

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